The Lowther family have had estates in Cumberland and Westmorland for
almost 1000 years. In 1805 they commissioned the architect Robert Smirke
to build them a castellated palace in Lowther Park near Penrith.
It was home in the early part of the twentieth century to the flamboyant
and profligate Fifth Earl of Lonsdale, the man known as The Yellow Earl.
In his long life he spent several kings’ ransoms in the pursuit of
happiness. His spending and two sets of crippling death duties within
ten years so damaged the Lowther fortunes that the castle had to be
To the young Seventh Earl, who inherited the title in 1953, Lowther castle and the 130 acres
of formal gardens so beloved of the Yellow Earl were symbols of a terrible Edwardian
decadence that sat uncomfortably with the new, austere post-war Britain.
In an act of financial necessity tinged with aristocratic spite
he ruined the castle, planted sitka spruce across its gardens and
built intensive chicken sheds where its lawns had been.
Now, though, there’s a plan to bring the castle and gardens back to life; to awaken the sleeping
beauty that’s lain forgotten in the forest for more than half a century.
For four years we’ve been filming the project through all its stages and discoveries.